Yael Stone to star in McDonagh play

Orange Is The New Black star Yael Stone will play the title role in Sydney Theatre Company’s forthcoming production of Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen Of Leenane.

The role of Maureen Folan was originally to be played by Rebel Wilson but the Hollywood actor pulled out due to a scheduling clash.

Stone is an impressive replacement having also built an international following from her role as Lorna in all seven seasons of the Emmy-winning show.

She was also catapulted into the media spotlight late last year after going public with allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush with whom she co-starred in a Sydney production of Diary Of A Madman in 2010. Rush, who won a defamation case against The Daily Telegraph over reports of inappropriate conduct during a production of King Lear, has denied the allegations.

Stone, a NIDA graduate, has worked extensively in the Australian film, television and theatre industry since she began her professional career at the age of thirteen.

Yael Stone and Noni Hazelhurst star as Maureen Folan and her mother Mag in the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane. Picture; Rene Vaile

Yael Stone and Noni Hazelhurst star as Maureen Folan and her mother Mag in the forthcoming Sydney Theatre Company production of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane. Picture; Rene Vaile

Most recently in Australia, Yael played Tori Lustigman in Deep Water  on SBS and Dora Lumley in Picnic At Hanging Rock on Foxtel.

Also joining her in the cast is well-known Australian actor Noni Hazlehurst, who will play Maureen Folan’s cruel mother Mag. Hazlehurst has performed in everything from Playschool to The Letdown and A Place To Call Home.

Director Paige Rattray said the two central characters are “brilliant roles for women”.

“They are both incredibly flawed beings, playing domestic roles that have been thrust onto them by society and circumstance,” she said.

“Their psychology is complex and you see-saw between feeling anger, sympathy, understanding and outrage at their actions. I can’t wait to see what actors of Yael and Noni’s calibre will bring to these roles. If our photo shoot is anything to go by our audiences are in for a very funny and surprising ride!”

Beauty Queen Of Leenane was the first big stage hit for McDonagh who went on to pen the Broadway and West End hits The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, as well as acclaimed films such as In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

The play showcases McDonagh’s devilishly satisfying sense of humour with a cruel underbelly.

The STC production comes on the back of a sell-out season of his equally dark comedy The Cripple Of Inishmaan at the Old Fitzroy.

The Beauty Queen Of Leenane runs from November 18 to December 21 at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

Curtain rises for new Brisbane Irish theatre group

An Irish-led Queensland theatre company is launching with a production of Mike Bartlett’s provocative play Cock this month.

Bosco Productions has been established by Derek Draper from Dublin and Paddy Farrelly from Meath and will aim to bring Irish plays to the Queensland stage.

Paddy Farrelly has years of experience onstage in Brisbane and in 2016 produced Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman, which formed part of the global centenary commemortaion of the 1916 Rising.

“We decided we would set up Bosco, do this play to start off with and then we’re going to focus on a few Irish plays,” Farrelly said.

“We nail this, play as we will, [and] that opens up a whole new audience for everything else we want to do. If we started with an Irish play it’s not going to have much of a draw outside of the Irish-Australian community. You’re a one-trick pony. Doing it this way, you got chops.”

Cock’s main character John has always identified as a gay man. However, when John and his boyfriend take a break, he starts a relationship with a female that surprises even himself. The play by young English playwright Bartlett builds to a showdown where both lovers and genders fight for John. It is described as a sharply observed and witty play exploring complex issues like bisexuality and identity. Rising star Julian Curtis will play the lead role.

Bosco co-founders Paddy Farelly from Meath and Derek Draper from Dublin.

Bosco co-founders Paddy Farelly from Meath and Derek Draper from Dublin.

Bosco’s co-founder Derek Draper has starred in an acclaimed run of David Mamet’s American Buffalo and been nominated for the Billie Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist for his work in Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West.

Draper explains it is a play that Australia has yet to see in the way it should be done.

“It’s a comedy about the indecisions in life. It’s about trying to fit in. It’s about being in a relationship too long or not having the courage to leave it. It’s about leaving and not having the courage to go back. It’s about choice, people will really have fun with this play. It’s very unique.

“It hasn’t been done the way it needs to be done in Australia. What I wanted to do was take this play and give it the platform it hasn’t got in Australia yet,” he said.

Cock will be directed by Helen Howard who has won four Matilda Awards for her work as both an actress and a director.

“A ship is nothing without its captain. Helen is an absolute legend of the theatre and screeen here in Brisbane,” Draper said.

“Helen Howard doing this with us would be like Brendan Gleeson or Liam Cunningham landing down at a local drama group in Ireland saying, ‘Lads I’ll give you a dig out’.


“It’s on that level,” Farrelly added. We nail this play with the level of difficulty that it has, with the level of interest that people will have to see how we deliver it, we nail this and we absolutely have a platform to bring all the really good Irish stuff in here.”

“Getting people together to celebrate anything Irish. I think is such a wonderful thing,” Draper added. “Nobody’s doing it and I don’t know why. If there isn’t an appetite for the great writers and the fantastic black humour that we have then I think it’s kind of up to us to introduce it.

“What we really need to do is get people excited about culture again and that’s going to be a mammoth task that is going to be well beyond mine and Paddy’s capabilities. But maybe we can inspire two other people who are thinking about it and maybe in Western Australia or Sydney. If anyone’s reading this article, get in touch.

“If you’re a director or a producer or you’re a showrunner or you’ve got an idea or you’re just passionate about Irish culture, let’s connect. Trust me, we’re the same. I don’t know you either and I’d love to.”

The company is already looking at productions in Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and elsewhere.

Why is the company named after the children’s TV character? “Bosco is the underpinning thing from our childhood,” Draper says.

“It’s a homage to childhood and that is where we’re going to get all of our creativity.”

Cock will be staged at the Metro Arts Centre in Brisbane from August 21 to 31.

Crippling laughter awaits in Inishmaan stage treat

Much has happened to Martin McDonagh since he wrote The Cripple Of Inishmaan back in 1996.

He’s now an Oscar and Golden Globe winning writer and director, deploying his sledgehammer humour on the big screen, most notably in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Sydney audiences have a chance to revisit the Cripple Of Inishmaan with a fine production of the play at the Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomooloo.

The cripple of the title is Billy, an orphan who lives in the care of his adoptive spinster aunts. He, like everyone else in Inishmaan, is bored and dreams of a better life elsewhere, anywhere.

Also Read: Fare war delivers amazing flight deals to Ireland

The arrival of a Hollywood crew to shoot Robert Flaherty’s Man Of Aran creates an exit strategy for Billy but will he get away or will his plan be derailed by secrets and lies?

McDonagh unflinchingly holds a satirical mirror up to rural Irish life, its preoccupations, obsessions and insecurities. There are dark secrets and benevolent lies, family betrayals and belligerent blackmail, vengence and violence and eggs, lots of eggs.

Laurence Coy as Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson as his mother in The Cripple Of Inishmaan. Picture: Marnya Rothe

Laurence Coy as Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson as his mother in The Cripple Of Inishmaan. Picture: Marnya Rothe

The characters are cartoonish versions of people we instantly recognise and McDonagh, who spent his youthful Summer holidays in the west of Ireland, skillfully captures the cadence and musicality of the vernacular he would have tuned into as a young man.

He also challenges myths surround Ireland and Irish people. Are we friendly? Or simply nosy?

The result is painfully hilarious, poignant and profound. It may be that Billy is the least crippled member of the Inishmaan community.

The Mad March Hare Theatre Company’s production is faithful to the spirit of the dark humour and almost all the actors comfortably inhabit their characters and embrace the terrible beauty of the script.

William Rees, a young actor who lives with a disability, is impressively compelling as Billy.

Laurence Coy is a standout as the scheming village gossip Johnnypateenmike and Jude Gibson is outstanding as his alcoholic, bed-ridden mother.

A cleverly adaptable set, which makes the most of the limited space at the Old Fitz, is put to good use. A shop counter becomes a currach which becomes a bed.

Director Claudia Barrie’s attention to detail is impressive and she is well supported by lighting director Benjamin Brockman and production designer Brianna Russell.

While some of the Irish accents are a little sketchy, it would be churlish to say that this slight shortcoming takes away from what is a very enjoyable night of theatre.


Review: Once you see it, you'll like it

Guy meets Girl, and that’s where the introductions end.

The principal characters in this Sydney premiere production of Once remain nameless, but never voiceless throughout the minimalist musical nimbly staged in a Darlinghurst church-turned-playhouse. 

The Irish vacuum repairman and Czech immigrant, connected by a hoover that will not suck, set about on a week-long mission to craft an album with a ragtag bunch of skilled musicians in Dublin.

The stars need no more than a few days to become well-versed in wistful love under each other’s tutelage. 

Toby Francis’ Guy and Stefanie Caccamo’s Girl feed off each other’s wit and talent, each spurring the other to work to their full potential as they give their all to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s melodies.

Francis’ breathlessness is warranted at the end of the brutally pining When Your Mind’s Made Up, but Caccamo is undoubtedly the main attraction.

The actress, best known for her work in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, is affecting at the helm of the piano, commanding and impressive everywhere else.

Girl’s deadpan approach to comedy and love comes naturally, “I’m always serious. I’m Czech”, and keeps the audience locked out of her thoughts until the right moment.

Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis star as Girl and Guy. Photo: Robert Catto.

Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis star as Girl and Guy. Photo: Robert Catto.

The ensemble cast, including seasoned theatre and radio personality Cameron Daddo, commits to the accents and sensibilities of at-times caricatured roles, and to the rich history of Irish folk music.

Bringing the orchestra out of the pit and into the light helps preserve the trance of Once, with mere scene transitions becoming moments of intrigue as the kindred virtuosos weave hazily across the set.

It is during earnest scenes of stillness that the play feels most rushed, like the performers can’t wait to pick up their instruments again, but the audience - who have awaited the musical’s Sydney opening since it’s Australian premiere in Melbourne five years ago - hardly minds.

The Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production is more musical than any iteration that has come before, a point of pride for director Richard Carroll.

Name an instrument, and musical director Victoria Falconer, who joins the cast as barmaid Reza, can probably play it.

Once is an amalgamation of the best of musicals, plays, intimate concerts and spontaneous pub sessions, the entangled union a recipe for success.


After selling out its initial run, new shows have been added from July 30 to August 4.

Love/Hate star for Australian stage debut

John Connors is bringing his one-man stage show to Australia.

John Connors is bringing his one-man stage show to Australia.

John Connors, the award-winning Irish actor best known for his role in the hard-hitting Irish TV drama Love/Hate and the movie Cardboard Gangsters, is coming to Australia with his one-man show, Ireland’s Call.

Examining issues of class, religion and identity, this new play is described as “an unflinching exploration of the Irish psyche, bringing Ireland’s collective guilt’s, secrets and flaws to the surface”.

Ireland’s Call follows the lives and family histories of three young men as they grow up in Coolock on Dublin’s northside and examines what shapes them and entices them to a life of crime?

The play was hit at the Dublin Fringe Festival and earned glowing reviews from critics.

The Irish Times’ Mick Heaney, for instance, wrote that “the charismatic Connors brings vivid life to his character, whether consumed with anger and despair, or unleashing profane asides with verbal vim. And for all its bleak worldview, it’s a drama with a dogged faith in people, not least the flawed but appealing James.”

John Connors first came to public attention in the hugely popular RTE hit series, Love/Hate.

John Connors first came to public attention in the hugely popular RTE hit series, Love/Hate.

Ireland’s Call could be seen as an extension of the actor’s role as an advocate, not just for working-class people, but also for his own Traveler community, which he said is the most oppressed of Ireland’s minorities.

“The most discriminated against by a wide, wide margin,” he told the Guardian recently.

His advocacy begins with the forthright telling of his own story.

When Connors was 8, his father committed suicide and at 20, that “viable option” loomed for him.

“Seven and a half years ago,” he said, dedicating his Irish Film And Television Awards (IFTA) best actor gong (for Cardboard Gangsters) to his dead father, “I was sitting in a little box bedroom in the darkness, contemplating suicide.”

His brother reached out at that moment. The two googled “acting classes” and “Dublin” and somehow John Connors talked himself into an advanced class at the Abbey Theatre.

He is now widely considered one of Ireland’s most compelling screen actors.

Ireland’s Call will be performed at the Alex Theatre in St Kilda on Thursday June 20 and at Bondi’s Pavillion Theatre on Saturday June 22. For more details and bookings, click here.

Rebel Wilson to star in Beauty Queen Of Leenane

Rebel Wilson is a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s work.

Rebel Wilson is a big fan of Martin McDonagh’s work.

Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids) will play the female lead in Martin McDonagh’s Beauty Queen Of Leenane for the Sydney Theatre Company next year.

The star of movies like Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids returns to the Sydney stage in the ink-black modern classic by Academy Award-winning writer McDonagh who wrote and directed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Wilson’s appearance in this Sydney Theatre Company production is sure to generate plenty of interest when it premieres next November.

The play is part of McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy alongside A Skull In Connemara and The Lonesome West.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane is one of my favourite plays,” Wilson said.

“It’s a fascinating look at a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, written by my favourite playwright, Martin McDonagh. He writes such dark and comedic characters – I've always been drawn to his work.

“I am really excited to come back to STC to be in this play. The Beauty Queen of Leenane was the first professional play that I ever saw and I saw it at STC when I was 19 years old. I was just blown away by how talented the actors were and how great the play was. Then I performed in that same theatre a few months later in my first proper play, Spurboard, for ATYP and STC Education. So, to me, the play holds a lot of significance – I hope I can do it justice."

Set in a small Connemara town, Maureen Folan lives a lonely existence with Mag, her aged mother. Their relationship is more arm wrestle than warm embrace. Right now, when Maureen stands the chance of having her first romantic relationship, Mag’s cantankerous presence is simply unbearable.

This play was the first big hit for McDonagh, whose films also include the hugely popular In Bruges.

Rebel Wilson said she is excited by her return to live theatre.

“There’s something very special and very magical about seeing theatre. I can’t get enough of going. I love that it’s an immediate experience. The cool thing is that every theatrical performance is different and it depends on the audience and the energy in the room. Just those people there share that one, live, personal experience. You can’t get that from a movie or a TV show, it’s such a particular experience. That’s why, despite all the technological advances in entertainment, people still go to the theatre – and have for hundreds of years. You just can’t beat the shared experience of theatre.”

The play is part of the Sydney Theatre Company's 2019 Program.

Harp In The South a Strumpet City down under

Kate Mulvany's stage adaptation of Ruth Park's Harp In The South runs until October 6. 

Kate Mulvany's stage adaptation of Ruth Park's Harp In The South runs until October 6. 


REVIEW: “There are no literary tricks, no displays of cleverness, little rhetoric and less sentimentality; it is full-hearted, astutely observed writing at its most cohesive.”

Eileen Battersby wrote this in The Irish Times as a way of describing James Plunkett’s novel Strumpet City (successfully adapted for the small screen by Hugh Leonard in the 1970s) but it could have been written about Ruth Parks’ The Harp In The South.

Different city and a slightly different time but its epic scale, its large cast of characters and its essential Irishness are common threads.

Actor and playwright Kate Mulvany, whose resume is already bulging with fine stage work, has adapted Parks’ three novels about the Darcy family - Missus, Harp In The South and Poor Man’s Orange – for the Sydney Theatre Company. The resultant mammoth production, directed by Kip Williams, is both impressive and captivating. 

The ‘harp’ of the title is Ireland and we are taken on a dramatic journey with the Darcy family from the rural NSW town which they first call home in the new land to the grimy Surry Hills slums to which they move in search of a better life.

The streets of Sydney are not paved with gold and their lives become a daily battle of survival against the forces of poverty, violence, illness, crime, alcoholism and prejudice. 

For all that, there’s warmth and humour galore interwoven into the script along with a number of Irish songs tastefully punctuating the narrative.

While this is a new play, it is immediately familiar to Irish eyes with shades of Sean O’Casey, John B Keane and even Brian Friel.

Emigration is a common theme for Irish playwriting but few are written from the perspective of those who have left, looking back over their shoulder, wondering if the grass beneath their feet is indeed greener.

The opening words of Siúil A Rún, which is used to great dramatic effect in Part 1, spell it out.

“I wish I were on yonder hill, ’tis there I’d sit an cry my fill”. 

Harp In The South is steeped in that immigrant world and for the Darcys, Australia does not ultimately deliver a better life for them or their descendants even if the play (six and half hours of theatre delivered over two performances) ends on an optimistic note.

In the #metoo era, Harp In The South resonates with feminist themes as we see three generations of women battle to keep their families together as their own dreams - and indeed their very lives - are sacrificed and abandoned.

As a consequence, the female characters get all the best lines, whether its Anita Hegh’s relentlessly-aproned Margaret Darcy or local brothel madam Delie Stock, beautifully played by Helen Thompson. The Irish-born matriarch Eny Kilker, played by Heather Mitchell chastises her Australian-born son-in-law Hughie Darcy at one point “Irish? You’re about as Irish as a feckin’ wombat!”.

Sadly, the male actors are not given as much to work with as their characters are either lazy drunks, sexual predators or gormless fools. 

Part 1 is a significantly more satisfying theatrical event than Part 2 and one wonders whether the adaptation could have been more comprehensively edited to create one single production.

But make no mistake, this is a very important addition to the Australian theatrical canon and one definitely worth seeing. For all of its Irishness, it is an Australian story. We see the seeds of Sydney’s multicultural, secular, pluralist, hedonistic present through the eyes of these spirited women and the flawed men who take their loyalty and love for granted.

4/5 Stars.

Strong Irish vein to adapted stage epic

Tony Cogin, Anita Hegh and Tara Morice in Kate Mulvany's adaptation of Ruth Park's  The Harp In The South .  Picture: Rene Vaile

Tony Cogin, Anita Hegh and Tara Morice in Kate Mulvany's adaptation of Ruth Park's The Harp In The South.  Picture: Rene Vaile

A MUCH-LOVED story about a Catholic Irish-Australian family living in the Surry Hills slums in the post-war years has been turned into an epic play opening in Sydney this month.

The Harp in the South follows the lives, loves and losses of the Darcy family who run a boarding house amid the dirt and the squalor of inner city Sydney in the 40s and 50s.

It’s a two-part production staged over a mammoth five-and-a-half hours so audiences can be completely immersed in the Darcys’ world.

The play is based on a trilogy of novels by Ruth Park and has been adapted for the theatre by award-winning playwright and actress Kate Mulvany.

Mulvany, who has Irish hertitage, fell in love with The Harp in the South while growing up. She described it as a “beautiful, sweeping, romantic” saga.

“It was just this book that seemed to be on everyone’s shelves,” she said.

“I guess it was because Ruth Park was so inclusive of everyone in her writing. Everyone could find themselves, or their mum, or their grandparents in it. And for me, it was the very, very strong Irish vein that ran through the book in every single way.”

Guy Simon, Contessa Treffone and Rose Riley in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of  The Harp In The South . 

Guy Simon, Contessa Treffone and Rose Riley in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of The Harp In The South

At the heart of the play are first generation Irish-Australians Margaret and Hugh Darcy and their two daughters Roie (Rowena) and Dolour.  Audiences will follow them through the generations and the decades in a production full of song, laughter and tears. Their Irish-born grandma, played by Heather Mitchell, provides many of the gags.

 “She is sort of like an over-sexed, blatantly honest, funny, little tiny creature,”Mulvany said. “I really enjoy it every time she goes on stage.”

There’s also a tight-knit community of neighbours, many of them new immigrants from different parts of the world. The colourful cast of characters includes the notorious madam who runs the brothel next door, nuns and even an Orangeman intent on starting the Troubles in the Darcy’s kitchen.

The Harp in the South reflects the life of Surry Hills’ hardscrabble post-war residents – the Irish, the Chinese and the Europeans – who filled its streets with life and colour.

One of the play’s central themes is community and “finding a place to belong when you’re far from home” and it celebrates the fellowship that existed among the slum dwellers.

But it certainly isn’t all a rose-tinted depiction of the ‘good old days’. 

Along with the grinding poverty, there’s violence, backstreet abortions, alcoholism and death. 

Playwright Kate Mulvany, who adapted Ruth Park's classic for the stage.

Playwright Kate Mulvany, who adapted Ruth Park's classic for the stage.

Park lived in Surry Hills after she got married, so she knew well the conditions firsthand.

“I’m not going to cast it in a golden light because it’s not,” Mulvany said. “Ruth Park never wrote it like that, either. It’s tough.”

In fact, when Park’s book was first published in 1948 there was a public outcry at its depiction of the slums, especially because Park was a New Zealander. And while modern Irish
immigrants might appear to have little in common with the Darcys, Mulvany said they may struggle with some of the same issues.

 “Do you belong either in Surry Hills or in Ireland? How far does Irish blood go?”

Mulvany wrote the play for the Sydney Theatre Company after being given the commission to adapt an epic novel and turn it into event theatre.

Audiences can choose to watch the two-part production on different days, or on the same day with breaks.

The 18-strong cast is in rehearsal and has the enormous task of playing 150 parts, switching costumes and personas for what has been described as one of STC’s most ambitious productions.

 “They’re doing very well with it; I’m sure they’ll turn on me soon,” Mulvany said with a laugh.

The Harp in the South runs from August 16 to October 6 in the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

For more details go to

Australian premiere for orphan girls play

The cast of Highlands Theatre Group's production of  Belfast Girls .

The cast of Highlands Theatre Group's production of Belfast Girls.

Belfast Girls, a play which dramatises the journey of Irish orphan girls to Australia in the mid-19th century, is to have its Australian debut this month.

The play, written by Irish playwright Jaki McCarrick and directed by Stephen Clancy, will be performed by the Highlands Theatre Group (HTG) at the Mittagong Playhouse in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

Set in 1850 in the immediate aftermath of the Great Hunger (an gorta mór), the play follows the fortunes of five young women who set sail for a new life in Australia aboard the Inchinnan. Each carried with them their own dark and shocking secrets of the past.

As their journey nears its end, they battle with memories of past deeds and confront the reality of what their futures in this new land, may actually hold for them.

Between 1848 and 1851, more than four thousand young women - many of them orphaned by the famine - left Ireland under the Earl Grey Scheme to boost the female population of the colony.

The HTG is one of only nine amateur theatre groups throughout the world to be given permission to stage the show. 

Writer Jaki McCarrick became interested in the orphan girls story when she found a namesake,  Nora McCarrick, from Easkey, Co Sligo, who had travelled to Australia under the scheme.

"This was a chapter of Irish history I knew nothing about," she said.

"I read what books I could find on the subject, including Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore, Thomas Kennelly’s History of Australia, Trevor McClaughlin’s Barefoot and Pregnant? Irish Famine Orphans in Australia, Irish Women and Irish Migration, edited by Patrick O’Sullivan.

"In my reading of these books and articles, I discovered that a particular group of ‘orphans’ were considered to have been especially feisty and colourful, known for their use of obscene language and riotous behaviour. These were known as ‘the Belfast girls’."

The HTG will stage six performance of the play. For more information, and bookings, visit or call Destination Southern Highlands directly on (02) 4871 2888.